Rock, Paper, Scissors

Randomized neon­signs marking the former frontier crossing point Ober­baum­bridge Berlin. Realised in 1997. Commis­sioned by the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Devel­opment and the Envi­ronment as a permanent marker on the Ober­baum­brücke, the former border crossing between East and West Berlin.

A neon game, powered by a random generator, marks the Ober­baum­brücke, the former border crossing between East and West Berlin. Two round light boxes made from acrylic, each with a diameter of 100 cm, are installed in the central spandrel of the elevated railway bridge above the river Spree. Inside each box are three curved neon tubes (yellow, red and blue) depicting the contours of hand move­ments. These are the gestures of the game “Rock paper scissors” to which the title refers: the red line forms an outstretched hand (paper), the yellow line shows splayed fingers (scissors) and the blue line forms the contours of a clenched fist (rock). Both fluo­rescent tube systems are switched on via photo­electric switches from dusk until 1 am. Powered by random gener­ators, the hand move­ments change every six seconds. The objects are fairly nonde­script and are supposed to be as common­place as traffic signs. This is no sign visible from afar, but one that is inte­grated in the historic bridge as well as in the newly added centre piece. Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock— just like heads or tails, this game is played throughout the world in order to come to an agreement without having to argue about it. Owing to chance, one side is stronger or weaker than the other without generally being either. It is only the combi­nation that causes one side to win or lose: rivalry, power games and trials of strength between two oppo­nents are substan­tiated in an ironic way in Rock paper scissors. Two people stand opposite each other and try to come to a decision without argument or violence. By using this game of chance, the division of the city and the signif­i­cance of the bridge as a border crossing between East and West Berlin from 1972 to 1989 are put in an artistic context. With reduced styl­istic means, the work asks to what extent political deci­sions ulti­mately depend on chance, i.e. imply a moment of arbi­trariness. Goldberg builds an imag­inary bridge from past to present and raises polit­i­cally explosive issues. Play­fulness turns into ironic obser­va­tions on the apparent inevitability of compe­tition between political systems and its historical signif­i­cance. It is a univer­sally compre­hen­sible installation.